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“Come on, pick up the phone!”

Patrick paced up and down the living room. It wasn’t like his gran to leave the phone ringing, she loved to chat. Exasperated, he put the phone down and looked at his wife.

“I’m worried about Gran,” he said. “That’s the third time I’ve called. It’s just not like her.”

Andrea frowned. “Maybe she’s just out,” she said.

He gave her a look. “She’s practically house bound,” he said. “She doesn’t go out unless it’s planned in advance, and she hasn’t said anything about an outing. Look, I’m just going to go over and check on her.”

“It’s almost two hours drive,” Andrea protested. “We were supposed to have lunch together!”

He kissed her on the cheek as he reached for his car keys. “I know, love, I’m sorry, but she’s my gran! I’ll make it up to you.”

He waved as he ran down the driveway to his car, trying to look light hearted, but he was really worried. His gran was eighty-six, and spent most of her day sat in her comfy armchair with the phone on the coffee table next to her. The only way he could think of for her not answering was if she’d had a fall or –

He shook himself, and blinked, forcing himself to focus on the road.

The drive was mostly on the motorway, and there were limited opportunities to stop, but he stopped at every services he passed to pull in, try his Gran’s number again, then call Andrea to see if she’d called home in the meantime.

“No,” Andrea said with a long-suffering sigh. “She hasn’t called. I’ll text you if she does.”

By the time he pulled off the motorway and took the B roads towards his gran’s little cottage, Patrick was really worried. He didn’t bother parking properly, he just pulled up on the verge, leaping out of the car and over the garden gate in one smooth motion.

He opened the door and rushed in, his heart in his mouth.

“Oh, hello dear!”

He stared. His gran was sitting there, in her usual chair, knitting in hand, looking surprised.

“Gran! What – I’ve been trying to call you all morning, why didn’t you answer? I thought you’d had a fall or something!”

“Well, I couldn’t answer the phone today, dear,” his gran said, looking confused. “They’re cleaning the lines. Didn’t you know?”

“Cleaning the-” He stopped, staring at his gran’s phone. There was a plastic bag sellotaped neatly around it. Behind it, her calendar showed the date.

“Yes, dear. Your brother told me so, he read the letter out for me. The bag’s there to catch all the dust that gets blown out of the receiver.”

Patrick covered his face with his hands. “Rob, I’m going to kill you,” he muttered.

“What’s that dear?”

He knelt down in front of his gran. He hated lying to her, but it was easier than trying to explain why Rob was playing a trick on her.

“They’ve finished cleaning the lines, Gran. You can take the bag off the phone and answer calls again.”

“Oh right. Are you sure?”

“Yes Gran. I’m going to get you a cup of tea now.”

Patrick seethed. The April Fool’s he’d set up in Rob’s car had been good, but this was better. He’d been outdone. Next year, he was really going to have to go overboard.

© Kari Fay